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In a segment on the October 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that he promoted as examining "the most vicious political websites in the country," host Bill O'Reilly named Media Matters for America "the worst," falsely claiming that Media Matters "make[s] stuff [up] about me ... [e]very day of my life" and has "no ethics or scruples." He also referred to Media Matters as "assassins" and called those alerting the media of items posted at Media Matters "zombies."
While O'Reilly has previously singled out Media Matters on his radio show (here, here and here), and has responded to Media Matters criticisms on television with generic assaults on "Far Left websites," this attack -- apparently occasioned by the controversy over remarks made by former secretary of education Bill Bennett -- marked the first time O'Reilly has targeted Media Matters by name on his top-rated cable TV show.
O'Reilly claimed that he experienced difficulty booking guests for the segment because "they were afraid that Media Matters would go after them." He also described the state of fear he claims to live under because of Media Matters: "I've got to have bodyguards. I've got to have security wherever I go. And it's because of them." He then declared, "I don't fear them; I loathe them."
O'Reilly complained about emails he received after a recent interview with former talk show host Phil Donahue. Guest David Kline, author of Blog!: How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business, And Culture (CDS Books, September 2005), then mentioned "nutcases" who "believe that President Bush orchestrated the 9-11 attacks." O'Reilly replied: "Oh, you mean he didn't? That's what I've been hearing from Phil Donahue and [son of victim of terrorist attack on World Trade Center] Jeremy Glick and [filmmaker] Michael Moore, that he orchestrated it." As Media Matters has previously noted, Glick has said nothing approaching O'Reilly's mischaracterization of his comments; this marks the fourth time that O'Reilly has baselessly insisted that Glick did indeed accuse President Bush of orchestrating 9-11. Media Matters president and CEO David Brock has written an open letter to O'Reilly asking that he stop misrepresenting Glick's comments.
For his part, guest Jed Babbin, American Spectator contributing editor, misleadingly stated that a Media Matters item on him "disagreed with something I said on television." In fact, Media Matters corrected Babbin's misrepresentation of conclusions in the Duelfer report on the Iraq Survey Group's search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Babbin claimed that the report "said that there was a very substantial body of evidence that showed that much of what Saddam had was moved and might have been moved into Syria." Yet, as Media Matters pointed out at the time, nothing in the report corroborates such assertions.
From the October 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight: political smear sites. They operate on both sides of the political spectrum. There are no rules. These people will do and say pretty much anything to harm people with whom they disagree politically. The trend started back in the Clinton-Lewinsky days, and now thousands of bloggers are operating, throwing dirt all over the place. Now, they're not all bad. Some of these bloggers are good, accurate watchdogs. But there are plenty of awful ones.
Joining us now from Portland, Oregon, is David Kline, author of the book Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture. From Washington, Jed Babbin, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, who was slimed recently by the vile Media Matters outfit. I think they're the worst, although Smoking Gun is awful. But Media Matters, this is a George Soros-funded thing. They've got a lot of money. They have no ethics or scruples. And what did they do to you, Mr. Babbin?
BABBIN: Well, it was fairly typical of what they always do. They disagreed with something I said on television. It was about the Iraq war and the fact that we did not find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction proved absolutely nothing about whether he had them before the war, because we gave him six months to fiddle and diddle with them, and Charles Deulfer's report probably shows that they were taken somewhere else, perhaps into Syria. Basically, by the time that I got home, they had somehow found my email address and posted it on their website, saying that I was a liar and I'd gotten, oh, I don't know, 100, 150 emails, all on the basic eloquence level of liar, liar, pants on fire.
O'REILLY: So they violated your privacy by putting out your personal email address. Then the zombies that feed off the trough of these people wrote pretty much the identical email. Because I get identical emails. That's what I get. So they're pretty much identical. These zombies can't even think for themselves. They have to tell them what to write, correct?
BABBIN: Exactly. It's kind of a -- it's a little boys' Lord of the Flies kind of atmosphere, some of these things. They don't want to be civilized, so they aren't. But they're really -- they're really not very efficient or effective. I mean, they're more of a nuisance than anything else.
O'REILLY: I have to disagree with you. I think Soros, his money that goes in, and then hires these assassins, does damage. I mean, these are the people who damaged Bennett. And they tried to damage me. I just -- before we get to you, Mr. Kline, I'll tell you a funny story. Had Phil Donahue on the air a couple of weeks ago. I had a shootout with him. And I come in the next day, and I get a big stack of email, of course. And you could tell the ones that were generated by the crazy left-wing websites, because the wording was all the same. Here's the wording: "We really like you, Bill, and are big fans of The Factor, but your treatment of Phil Donahue was" -- every one was worded the same. And even the misspellings were the same. Now, I don't know what crazy website it came from, but it did come from one. Now how do you see it, Mr. Kline? Are we overstating this?
KLINE: No, I think there are a lot of nutcases out there. You have websites and political bloggers that believe that President Bush orchestrated the 9-11 attacks.
O'REILLY: Oh, you mean he didn't? That's what I've been hearing from Phil Donahue and Jeremy Glick and Michael Moore, that he orchestrated it. You mean he didn't? That's not true?
KLINE: Well, there are also bloggers out there who believe that President Clinton had Vince Foster assassinated.
KLINE: These people five years ago, they would meet in a local Marriott Hotel conference room somewhere and order pizza. But now with the Internet, you know, they've got reach. They've got access to thousands, thousands of people.
O'REILLY: But here's the dangerous thing. They also have access to the major newspapers like The New York Times, the L.A. Times, the New York Daily News, Newsday, Washington Post. They have certain columnists that they are friendly with, and they spit this stuff right into those columnists, Mr. Babbin, do they not?
BABBIN: Well, absolutely. I mean, we're really in a situation now where, Bill, five or 10 years ago, we had what was called a news cycle. And people waited an hour or two or 12 before putting something in print or on the air. Right now there is no news cycle. Everything is instantaneous, whether it's on television, on the Internet, or anywhere else. And reporters in some cases get pretty lazy. They take uncorroborated stuff right off of a website and put it out on the air or in the newspaper. And it's just garbage.
O'REILLY: And you know how they get around it? Then they call you for comment. They print the slander --
O'REILLY: And then they print all the defamation, and then they call you to comment on it. Then it's all -- that makes it OK. Go ahead. Go ahead, Mr. Kline.
KLINE: Well, I think maybe we should take a different tack on this. I mean, let's not be babies about the partisanship. The kind of partisanship that you're seeing on the Web with these blogs, yes, some of it is vicious, some of it is just loony. But it's not all that different than what used to go on in the media before the advent of corporate media. I mean, most people before World War II grew up with 10, 15, 20 newspapers, all with different points of view. And what's interesting about those times, and I think we're going back to those times with a very partisan media, is that the electorate was much more engaged, and people were much more involved in the democratic process.
O'REILLY: But here's the danger.
KLINE: They argued -- they argued but they were -- at the same time they were actually more civil.
O'REILLY: Here's the danger. You know, you're making a good point. You've got a big variety of voices out there. It's better than just The New York Times and the network news strangling people and ramming stuff down their throat.
O'REILLY: Absolutely valid, excellent point. But here's the problem: these people are so vicious, and they -- the media is so corrupt in taking their uncorroborated, as Mr. Babbin pointed out -- defamation that most people now won't run for office, sir. They won't do television and radio commentary. They won't put the -- when we had to book this segment, I couldn't get people to come on and say what you guys are saying, because they were afraid that Media Matters would go after them. They -- I couldn't -- I had people turn down this segment -- a bunch of them -- what are you, crazy? I'm going to criticize these assassins? They'll come after me. And that's a chilling effect.
KLINE: Well, I'm not naming names here, right? I mean, I don't want to get stalked.
O'REILLY: You see, you don't want to get stalked either. So put yourself in a position of somebody running for office or somebody trying to do an honest analysis of the news and they don't want to do it. Go ahead, Mr. Babbin, take the last word.
BABBIN: Well, basically, you can't be afraid of these people because the facts are what they are. And they're easily answered whenever they take these cheap shots. I'm not scared of those guys. I don't think anyone else should be.
O'REILLY: They can make stuff up -- look, they make stuff about me -- up stuff about me every day.